Radeon DRI for FireGL T2

Mike A. Harris mharris at www.linux.org.uk
Tue Aug 31 08:47:02 PDT 2004

Hamie wrote:
> Question is, whats the status of support for the 3D acceleration of the 
> FireGL-T2... 

The status of 3D acceleration for R300 and newer chipsets, is that there 
isn't any.  There is nobody working on them, and there are currently no 
specifications available for the 3D part of the chip.

 > Will it be never?

It would require a time machine, remote viewer, or clairvoyant to answer 
that non-speculatively.

 > Will it be when some bright spark decodes what the closed-source
 > drivers do?

That is incredibly unlikely.  Good luck to writing GPU microcode without 
any knowledge of the microcode instructions to whomever tries to do so.

 > Are the docs available, and it's just a question of someone finding
 > the time?


 > Or are ATI being their usual
 > 'it's a secret & the world will fall apart if someone else knows how
 > to program the chipset'?

Access to the hardware specifications is only one of several factors 
that would be required to have 3D support for the newer chips.  In my 
own personal opinion, and it's just that, and opinion, the other thing 
required would be a funded contract between ATI and a third party to 
develop the necessary driver contractually and on a time schedule.

Developing 3D drivers is basically a full time, time consuming task that 
requires dedication and many man hours to complete.  To date, the 
majority of the successfully completed OSS drivers have been implemented 
via funded contracts.  The funding is what keeps the developers hacking 
on completing the driver rather than looking for employment, or working 
a full time job and spending only a few hours here and there hacking on 
drivers.  Without funding, it basically isn't going to happen, 
specifications or not.

Nobody out there is likely to put out funding to develop such driver 
support, unless they have a financial or corporate interest in doing so 
for some reason or another.  In the case of the R200 3D support, it was 
graciously developed under funding from The Weather Channel, who 
presumeably are using a lot of Radeon R200 based hardware and wanted 
open source driver support for their hardware enough that it was 
financially viable for them to fund the project.  That's not any 
official story, just my own educated guess.

Aside from funding, permission from the hardware vendor to do the work 
and access to the necessary hardware documentation, contractual 
obligations for the work to be completed within a certain timeframe, and 
financial motivation for doing so, it isn't likely to happen unless a 
given hardware vendor takes on the task themselves and then contributes 
their code to the open source community.

ATI has been fantastic for years now in providing open source driver 
support for their hardware, and continues to do so, even though we do 
not currently have R300 3D acceleration support.

I'm sure if the right conditions become present in the market, as 
outlined above, that there is a possibility of open source 3D drivers 
existing some day, if it is beneficial to justify the costs involved 
with developing them in house, or paying someone else to do the work.

> Is there any way I could help? (I haven't done a lot with the X servers 
> since the early 90's, but I could get involved again if it would help).

Probably not, unless you can reverse engineer GPU microcode.  I'm not 
aware of anyone who's done that successfully to date on any modern video 
hardware, or at least not within a timeframe where the hardware is still 
relevant.  If you start now however, who knows, maybe it'll draw 
triangles by 2009 or so.  ;o)

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